Published on: October 7, 2020
Have you been diagnosed with chronic liver disease? If so, you might be wondering if you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The short answer is “yes.” However, when it comes to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) criteria for being rewarded your benefits, the chief question asked is, “Will this condition prohibit the claimant from working?”
You may have three years of documentation attesting to the fact that you have been treated for liver disease. Unfortunately, that may not be enough. Remember, the SSA focuses on work activity limitations when awarding SSDI benefits. Chances are, there will be nothing in your medical records about how much you can lift, how much you can carry, or how long you can sit without taking a bathroom or other break. There is also no quality data about your pain and how it interferes with concentration or causes irritability that might cause tension with co-workers.
What Is Liver Disease?
Liver disease is not a singular illness but a general name for over 100 different types of medical conditions that affect the liver. While over four million Americans are diagnosed with some form of chronic liver disease, the severity of the illness will depend per person.
Symptoms of liver disease also vary per person since there are so many different varieties of the disease. Liver disease can be genetic or caused by a variety of factors such as obesity, viruses, and heavy alcohol use. While there are not always noticeable signs, common symptoms of liver disease include:
- Jaundice (yellow skin), especially around the eyes
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Swelling in the legs and ankles
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine color
- Pale stool color
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Easy bruising
Conditions can eventually lead to liver cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver. While this can lead to life-threatening liver failure, catching symptoms of liver disease early on can provide treatment and prevent permanent damage.
Can I Receive Disability Benefits If I Have Liver Disease?
If your liver disease is serious enough, you can apply for Social Security disability benefits. Since liver disease symptoms can range in degrees of severity, there are certain qualifications your condition must meet to warrant disability benefits. To be eligible, your symptoms of liver disease must prevent you from earning a living. Symptoms may include any of those listed below:
What Liver Disease Symptoms Qualify For SSDI?
The SSA uses its “Blue Book” to determine if your medical condition is severe enough to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Section 5.00 in the Blue Book covers liver-related listings. For instance, chronic conditions such as hepatitis and liver cirrhosis are covered by listing 5.05, while listing 5.09 qualifies you for disability benefits if you’ve had a liver transplant. Or, if you have severe weight loss due to your liver disease, then you may meet listing 5.08 for disability benefits.
To qualify for disability benefits, you need to prove that your liver disease has been disabling for at least twelve months and shows these severe signs:
- If you have severe swelling in the legs as a possible side-effect of liver disease, then it may make it difficult for you to work.
- Severe side effects from medications given for liver disease may cause side effects that interfere with your ability to work.
- If you need frequent blood transfusions due to bleeding from the esophagus, stomach, or related areas due to chronic liver disease.
- If you have end-stage liver disease (ESLD) or require a liver transplant, then you likely qualify for disability benefits
These are just some symptoms of liver disease that are severe enough to qualify for disability benefits. You may have other symptoms that are debilitating enough that force you from being able to work. If you have chronic liver disease and believe that you need Social Security disability benefits, then a qualified disability advocate can help you receive the benefits you need.
What Information Do I Need To Qualify?
Besides filling out a Social Security disability benefits application, you will need in-depth medical records to support your claims of severe liver disease symptoms. With liver disease and disability claims, lengthy medical records are key in determining whether you will - or will not - be approved for benefits.
Medical evidence can include, but is not limited to:
- Laboratory tests and results
- Imaging results, like MRIs
- ER and hospitalization records
- Surgical notes and biopsy results
- Doctor’s recommendations
- History of treatments
These details inform the disability claims examiner how severe your liver disease is and how it’s impacted your quality of life and ability to earn a living.
Can You Receive SSDI If The Liver Disease Is Due To Alcoholism?
It might be found that you have liver disease because of chronic alcohol abuse. It is possible in this situation that you will not be granted legal disability status. Generally, the SSA will ask the following questions:
- Were you disabled because of a drug or alcohol problem?
- Were you disabled before a drug or alcohol addiction?
- Is a drug or alcohol addiction material to your disability?
Frequently, a potential beneficiary will have extended periods of not using drugs or alcohol. The SSA will investigate this to see if the individual was still disabled during that period. Sometimes a doctor’s statement that the claimant would be disabled even if there was no drug or alcohol addiction (DAA) can help in this regard as well.
Remember - do not decide on your own that you do not qualify for disability benefits. Since every case is unique, it’s important to always consult an experienced disability advocate before making such a decision. The experts at Disability Experts of Florida will work with you and your doctors to help determine whether a DAA might impact your case.
So, whether you need help navigating liver disease and long term disability benefits, or how a DAA may affect your chances of receiving Social Security disability benefits, DEF can help! Contact our experienced advocates today so they can focus on your claim while you can focus on your health.